Jumping The Shark

Posted by Barry | Wednesday, July 27th 2011

Even though there have been a lot of TV shows in the past that I have loved, there comes a time every once in awhile that you just want to put a show out to pasture.  You know, kill it dead.  Beat it with a crowbar until it promises to get better.  Where did things go wrong in your TV watching relationship?  Was it your fault?  Did another show look more attractive to you?  Did your show cheat on you by trying to get a younger audience?  These are the questions that I ponder.  Another term for a show that gets permanently derailed in terms of quality and substance is “jumping the shark”.

“Jumping the shark” is a universal term that was coined based on September 20, 1977 on the premiere of the 5th season of ‘Happy Days‘ where the Fonz (Henry Winkler) water-ski jumps a confined shark wearing swim trunks and a leather jacket.  The show was permanently on a downward spiral after that, thus the term “jumping the shark” was born.  Cast changes, ridiculous story twists, they all play into the decline of a once great premise.

Think back to one of your favorite shows in the past, was there a moment such as this?  I can recall the moment on ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘ (yeah, I was young and stupid once) when they replaced the mom with a new mom.  Total “jump the shark” moment, even Will Smith looks at the camera ala “Jim Halpert” and smirks to let the audience in on the change.  The new mom wasn’t just a new actress, the character now had a new personality.

Let’s not forget to mention that whenever a new child is introduced the “shark jumping” moment has been confirmed.  Remember ‘Growing Pains‘ or ‘Diff’rent Strokes‘ anyone?  New kids, show goes haywire.  The “Keatons” did the same damn thing on ‘Family Ties‘ and even ‘The Cosby Show‘ couldn’t help but bring in new kids.  That’s precisely why animated shows like ‘The Simpsons‘ and ‘South Park‘ can continue indefinitely: the kids don’t age!  Even when main characters get married, the show goes in a whole new direction (‘The Office‘, anyone?) that may lead to its death.

Some shows were wise enough to quit before the “shark” could get to them.  They left on a high note after a long run entertaining fans and audiences.  Two fantastic examples are ‘Cheers‘ and ‘Seinfeld‘ from my lifetime.  ’Cheers’ could have gone downhill when “Diane” (Shelley Long) left, but Kirstie Alley‘s “Rebecca” stepped in for the final 6 years the show was on the air.  They left on a high note after 11 years and Kelsey Grammer even got his own long-running spin-off show ‘Frasier‘ with his character.  ’Seinfeld’ decided to end at the peak of its popularity, even though the final 2 part episode was a little underwhelming.  Those shows all knew what they were doing and had great writers to stick through it to the very end.

Some shows, no matter how good they seem to you, get cancelled before they have the chance to wrap things up.  That’s a discussion for another time, but I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas of when your favorite show “jumped the shark” in recent times.  Feel free to post in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.  Are there some shows you continued/stopped watching because of a particular moment?  Tell me, I’m listening.

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